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Amstel Gold Race: What van der Poel, van Vleuten, Pidcock and more said at the start

The hilly classics are here! This is what some of the top favorites for the Amstel Gold Race said at the startline Sunday.

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Amstel Gold Race kick-starts hilly classics season Sunday.

One week earlier than usual due to a calendar swap with Paris-Roubaix, Sunday’s Dutch classic brings GC riders, cobblestone contenders and featherweight climbers into a mazey route packed with more hills than you could count.

Defending champion Wout van Aert isn’t there, leaving all-eyes on home hero Mathieu van der Poel to repeat his sensational 2019 victory.

The women’s race looks set to go down to an SD-Worx vs Annemiek van Vleuten dust-up after 2021 champion Marianne Vos, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Elisa Longo Borghini all pulled out.

Preview: Amstel Gold Race

Here’s what some of the big hitters told Cycling Pro Net and the rest of the press at the Maastricht startline Sunday:

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)

It’s going to be special. The year I won [in 2019] was crazy, I had the national champion’s jersey so that was maybe even more of a trigger for the fans, but it’s really cycle-minded here. It’s the first time in two or three years people are allowed alongside the course so it’s going to be a good atmosphere.

For sure I know the race quite well because I trained a lot here when I was younger. I know the roads and the climbs. Experience is important but the legs are more important.

People will look at me a bit but I think I’m less a favorite than I was at De Ronde, which suits me better. Amstel is a bit different, there’s no cobbles … for sure it’s going to be a hard race, and I think we’ll see some different names in the front in the end.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)

Favorite? For sure I’m super strong, but not always the strongest can win.

For me personally, the climbs here are too short. That’s the challenge for me, to have a hard race and I cannot do it myself, so I need some help with that. It’s not always possible to make the difference with a two-minute climb, and it’s quite explosive climbing – I’m more for the longer climbs.

SD Worx is still the team to watch, even without Lotte Kopecky

Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)

I expect a stressful and hectic race. It’s a lot of up and down and left and right, and a lot of traffic islands. It’s going to be a tough day in the saddle. But for me that’s quite good, it’s one of the things I enjoy about the classics. You always have to be well-positioned the whole race.

I prefer the traditional calendar with Roubaix before.

Me and Andrea Bagioli have shared leadership and the other guys are free to go, so we’re going to try to do an aggressive race and hope it plays to our advantage.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)

I’ve been a bit ill this week which has been very frustrating to say the least. I tried everything to stay healthy but it seems a bit pot-luck at the moment. But I’m on the startline so I’ll do my best today

This is a really nice race, I love riding around here. It’s kind of new for me because we didn’t do this course last year.